Canada’s Justin Trudeau called a snap election in mid-August hoping an early campaign could net his Liberals a majority government. But with their lead in the poll vanishing at the campaign’s halfway point, is one still within reach?
In August, when he called the election saying “Canadians need to choose how we finish the fight against Covid-19”, political headwinds appeared to be blowing in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s favour.
Canadians were largely happy with the direction of the country and his Liberal government’s pandemic response, polls suggested.
Though the initial rollout of Covid jabs in the country had been slow and bumpy, many Canadians had been vaccinated more quickly than predicted. People were enjoying the summer as lockdown restrictions were being eased by the provinces.
“Three weeks ago it felt like pretty common knowledge – at least with people I was talking to – that it was going to be a cakewalk for the Liberals,” said Jenni Byrne, a political commentator and former Conservative campaign manager.
But heading into September, Mr Trudeau and his Liberals are in a different position.
Canadians seem to be wondering why an election – called two years early – was necessary, said Alex Marland, a political science professor at Memorial University.
The prime minister may have controlled the timing of the campaign, but he did “not provide a satisfactory narrative about why we need to go to the polls” leaving voters “grumpy and frustrated”, he said.
National surveys suggest the Liberals, a left-of-centre party, have lost ground and are now in a statistical tie with the right-leaning Conservatives.
Said Ms Byrne: “Sometimes incumbents can underestimate when the electorate is looking for change.”
After six years in power, Canadians are less enamoured with Mr Trudeau than they once were.
The Liberal leader has won two elections – a majority in 2015 and a minority in 2019 – in part because he’s “always been able to rely on a certain amount of personal appeal,” said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, a polling non-profit foundation.
But an Angus Reid survey this week indicated a drop in popularity for the 49-year-old among voters of every age and gender, including women who have been his staunch supporters. BBC